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The Best Hikes in Hells Canyon Wilderness

317 Triplog Reviews in the Hells Canyon Wilderness
Most recent of 115 deeper Triplog Reviews
0 mi • 0 ft aeg
I have been exploring the Hells Canyon Wilderness for several months now. It is a great place to visit and a very easy place to escape the Phoenix noise for the harsh solitude of the desert. I have a quick cautionary tale to share about my latest trip to the wilderness though.

I was on a solo two day fast and light overnight trip when disaster found me. I had spent the previous day traveling from the Spring Valley Trailhead on Castle Creek Road down the trail to Garfias Wash. I walked downstream in Garfias Wash about 500 yards or so and then turned right up the large side canyon entering the wash there. I then proceeded up the wash in a mostly Westerly direction until it branched into three separate smaller tributaries. Taking the right most tributary that had the most water flowing in the bottom I continued up the stream in a Northwesterly direction where I found an amazing canyon with sheer walls and flowing water. Continuing upstream and climbing out of the canyon I made camp in a high saddle at the head of the wash I had been exploring all day. Down one side of the saddle was the drainage I had just climbed out of and down the other slope of the saddle was the Horse Creek drainage. I spent the night in the saddle with a spotting scope glassing deer, burros and javelina. It was exceptional.

The next morning following breakfast and some more glassing I continued down from the saddle and entered Horse Creek. I went upstream first to explore a well sight marked on the map. Finding it abandoned and in considerable disrepair I turned and proceeded down stream towards Garfias Wash and Hells Canyon.

Disaster! While working downstream on a cattle trail just above Horse Creek I stepped on a bit of rotten rock and broke my left ankle.

Two very loud snaps, a wave of nausea and about 15 minutes later I reached for my toe and rolled my ankle around a bit. No searing intense pain. I took my pack off and stood on the ankle, immediate searing pain shot through my ankle as I collapsed back onto my pack.

Cell service! I'll scoot up the hill that the trail was traversing shoot out a text for help. To my relief my phone showed one bar of service. To my immediate distress however, all messages failed to send. I was on my own back there, I had to get myself out.

I spent the next 16 hours hobbling on a stick down Horse Creek and Garfias Wash through Hell's Canyon. The majority of Hell's Canyon was spent on my butt because my ankle could not handle the extreme nature of the canyon. I made it about a mile up the established trail when I ran into my wife and buddy Joe out looking for me. Another two hours and we had made the trailhead, relief!

Morale of my story is:

Leave a detailed travel itenerary of your planned route. I left a link to a triplog on this sight. I deviated from the trip though and never told anyone. I am lucky that I was able to walk back to my planned route and find help.

Bring a substantial first aid kit. Mine will now include ace bandages and splint material.

Have some just in case gear. In the event that I was not mobile I was prepared to stay an extra night while awaiting rescue. I had food and water to do so.

I ended up breaking the small leg bone right at my ankle. Be safe out there!
6.75 mi • 400 ft aeg
It's funny. I'm doing a hiking log on a a hike I had no intention of doing when I set out this morning. My goal was to hit Governor's Peak and then to find "Salvation", but in my haste to get out the door this morning I forgot my Garmin. I still thought I could find Salvation Peak with the GPS route I had in my head and how some of the pictures displayed Castle Hot Springs (based on Barrett's hike). But I discovered when I reached Govenor's Peak that the two most likely candidates for Salvation Peak made me decide that I did not want to "find Salvation Peak". There seemed to be quite a bit of rugged terrain between Governor's and the two potential peaks with the potential for a lot of loss elevation. I found myself having little desire to attempt that "descent and climb" without having a definitive peak to shoot for. So instead, I headed back down Governor's Peak to the first "ridgeline/shelf" and headed west to the gnarly rock outcropping that had beckoned or me on previous visits. It was a short scramble to the top. Cool! It was relatively easy, but it made me feel daring :) . From there,I continued west to a dry wash that is the upper section to the Four Tanks. From above it looked as if there was a trail heading away from the wash to the south. When I reached the wash, I discovered it was a trail...a game trail. Instead, I turned east/north following the wash in the direction that would reconnect me to Governor's Peak/Hermit Trail. The wash was pretty neat to follow with quite a few dips and falls with pools of water at many of the levels. (Thus explaining the game trail). All were easy to negotiate up until the last one....the 15-20 ft fall described in the other write ups. Neat looking at it from the top down. No water was flowing, but there was water at the bottom. I backtracked a little (maybe 30 feet) to find a good point to climb out of the canyon. Both sides looked doable, but I went with the west side (towards Governor's Peak) because there was less vegetation to deal with. From there it was an easy deal to reconnect to the Hermit Trail and return to the TH. Didn't see a soul while I was out there. But the wildlife did not disappoint. Saw a lone buck, a grouping of four deer near the top of Governor's, a healthy looking squirrel and a rattlesnake (I think). It was curled up for warmth, so I couldn't see the rattles. It was small but good looking. Didn't have my Garmin with me, so my mileage is an estimation based on my other trips to Governor's Peak and the small amount of ground that was covered in the making of this lasso.
12.6 mi • 2,600 ft aeg
It was Horace Greeley who once said "Go west young man"! With that in mind, Tracie, my intrepid hiking partner, and I decided to venture to the West Valley and hike up to Peak 3465.

We followed the Walkin' Jim Trail in a counterclockwise direction, and we took the Big Jim Trail to and from the summit of Peak 3465. The hike was mostly through typical desert vegetation, and the views at the top were pretty cool. The trails were mostly easy to follow, but I was glad that I had downloaded the GPS track for the official route.

At the top I signed the log book, and noticed that hikerdw had signed it about 3 weeks prior.

On the hike we saw 6 wild burros, one rabbit, and no humans -- that ratio was pretty good imho!

I was hoping to see some wildflowers, but there were none, save for some flowering ocotillos
6.1 mi • 1,949 ft aeg
The cool overcast day seemed to cry out for an interesting hike with some decent elevation gain. We parked just off Caste Hot Springs road just after 10.

The trail starts easy enough, slightly uphill and crossing some washes, well marked, decent footing, well defined trail, lots of cairns. Ran into 3 other hikers coming back down about the halfway point. From here it gets interesting -- loose footing, rock scrambles, fainter trail. Had the track on Gaia on my phone and cross checked it fairly often. The trail seems to have two routes as you start up the final wash. One set of cairns keeps you low in the wash with significant scrambling. The high route run parallel on the eastern side and is much more accommodating. We figured that out on the way down.

The recent rains had left a lot of small rock pool of water in the drainages. Life is good in the hills right now.

The saddle at the top of the last wash had a surprise for us. Looking east at the at the edge of the ridge line was a small window. It is in the vicinity of N33° 58.355' W112° 22.078'.

The summit had the great views you'd expect. Seems to be a lot of construction work at historic Castle Hot Springs. Another Arizona destination in the works?

Back at the trailhead we poked around the old ruins at the mouth of the wash before heading back to find a huge garbage burger with all the fixin's.

5.7 mi • 800 ft aeg
Took the family out for my first hike of the new year. I had to finish up the Little Jim Trail from when I did the big loop and peak hike back in April, and this one seemed perfect.

Got to the TH and found it packed with ATVers. Just a couple of spots left. Then I found that my phone wasn't charging on the ride up because the charger came loose, so I was already at 47%. We waited 10 min until it got up to 57% and then took off.

We did the loop clockwise, which seemed like the best idea. The southern half of the loop has a lot of loose rocks, which makes for some slower going. Coming back on the smoother section of the Walkin' Jim trail was pretty nice. The temps were pretty nice, it actually seemed warmer at the beginning that at the end, but that might be because we were walking uphill. We also hiked the section of the trail I skipped last time going the long way around the hill.

Saw one other hiker the whole time. She had an unleashed dog that she told was friendly. Then Dmitri started to walk by him and he barked, so she finally grabbed him and held him while we walked by. Didn't see any burros or other wildlife the entire time. Some spots of the washes actually still had some water, which was surprising.

At the end of the hike, Route Scout wouldn't shut down. I would hit the stop button, and it would freeze. I restarted the phone twice and it would start up again recording where it left off each time. Eventually had to uninstall the entire app and reinstall it later at home to fix the problem, thereby losing the route. Fortunately, I always use RS and my Garmin Oregon, so I still recorded my route for the hike.

Nothing special or extraordinary, but a very nice Sunday hiking with the family, with the earned lazy time at home the rest of the day.

12.97 mi • 2,278 ft aeg
Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
Pre dawn start with temps in the 30's and dead batteries in the head lamp. The cell phone sufficed for the first 20 minutes until daylight.

We warmed up with the uphill on the Spring Valley Trail with the sun rising. This is a real nice trail to take with the sun rising over Lake Pleasant.

Dropping into Garfias Wash, we seemed to loose about 10 degrees of temperature. This is an easy wash walk with interesting geology. Some may not like the need to empty the sand out of your shoes occasionally (like BoeJartels)

We got to an area that we practiced Safety First and Joe waited, while I scoped out a bit farther towards Hell Canyon.

Back to pick up Joe and headed up the unnamed side canyon we'd been in a few times before. I remembered there being one area of concern for our Safety First campaign. Slow and steady and we made our way up the 12' dry fall. Oops, forgot about the second one. The best we could do on this one, was safety second. With a bit of time and patience, 20'er negotiated.

The climb to Governors Peak from our angle was steep but straightforward. Great views for lunch. First lunch I can remember where we could see the end of the hike and truck, some 3 miles away.

Governors Peak 360
[ youtube video ]

Great day in Hell.

No Burros sighted, we were brayed twice.

11.88 mi • 2,139 ft aeg
Spring Valley - Garfias - Governors Peak Loop
Here's a little loop Bruce wrote six years ago. That one ended on a sour note with a private property scolding. We hiked a bonafide legal version with Ben four years ago. This nearby gem felt like a good fit for a tight holiday schedule. If you enjoy moderately challenging off trail adventures & live near the Valley you might enjoy exploring.

Spring Valley Trail
The morning light through this desert jungle never disappoints. Per usual I asked myself why I've neglected more visits.

Garfias Wash
Under 3 miles in take a right off trail into Garfias. If it rubs you the wrong way turn back pdq because 5 miles of sand and gravel is looking to scold your feet. 6 miles in on a short out-n-back towards Horse Creek we found slow running water and a good twenty foot diameter pool capped with half inch thick ice. The first two hours of our hike were cold and it's been cold recently in the valley... still seemed unexpected.

I took a break at the pool while Bruce scrambled up creek. Autumn auditioned technicolor magic on a willow and cottonwood. Along with a trickling creek and the warmth of the sun after a chilly start was a real treat.

Unnamed Creek
Not sure if this one is named. We take it NW out of Garfias to the SW side of Governors Peak. There are 2 areas to scramble. No biggie for most. It was just in my range with lots of help from Bruce. I get by fine and adapt on most things one handed. Crumbly rock scrambles without corrective-balance race nightmares through the mind at warp speed.

Governors Peak
The western approach is semi steep and semi loose. Nothing horrible, going up is less prone to accidents and a trail gets you down the South. We lunched with a curious bee Bruce dubbed George. Excellent internet kept lunch social.

Great little adventure-hike near the valley with exotic terrain, a smorgasbord of cacti and a hint of water.

Consumed 38 oz water

2 days to Christmas, Autumn keeps on giving. Cottonwoods, Willows & Tamarisk looking nice
15.26 mi • 3,596 ft aeg
Hieroglyphics - 3465 Pikes & Mill
I'd never set foot on these trails before this trip, but a couple of desert peaks sounded good. Chilly start at sunrise for my underdressed self. I was the only one wearing shorts today, unfortunately. We made our way along Walkin' Jim, crossed paths with a few burros and started up 3465. Nice trail and easy to follow route to the summit. The views were better than I anticipated. Rugged peaks and colorful geology in all directions. The lake actually looks pleasant from up here. We soaked it all in during brunch. Once back in the flatlands, the off-trail fun began. We climbed a hill and eyeballed a route onto the ridge. We picked a winner. It was much easier than it looked from that hill. We strolled along the ridgeline over to Pike's, then back West along the ridge over to Mill. Both were worthy destinations. Mill was fun and required navigating through a steep, loose cholla field, then a narrow, rocky 'mini ridge' just before the top. Heading back down, I spotted the 'adventurous route' for the day and opted for new scenery, instead of returning the way we arrived, and convinced Linda to follow. The descent we ended up with was steep and loose, but complaining was kept to a minimum. We arrived at the drainage safely and followed it back to the trail to finish out the loop. Weather stayed perfect all day and we didn't encounter a single hiker throughout. I found this place to be surprisingly scnenic. Add some off-trail fun and it makes for a great day.
15.26 mi • 3,596 ft aeg
Hieroglyphics - 3465 Pikes & Mill
Started around 7:00am to a great sunrise. Passed a group of burros a few miles in, got some pics of them, then headed over to 3465. Had an early lunch at the top, then headed back down then over towards Pikes. I had pulled together a rough route, which we followed for a short distance, then climbed up a small hill for a better view, and adjusted the route a little more to the north and up the most gradual ridge we could see. It was the right call, with a fairly easy ascent. From the top we curved to the west and south over to Pikes. Got some pics, then followed the ridge north to Mill. It was a fun easy scramble up to Mill, which I enjoyed. Heading back down, I wanted to take the same ridge back down, others wanted to contour down the drainage on the north side of the ridge. We survived, but I think about halfway down, I may have said something like "I told you so." Once back on the trail, we continued along the Walkin Jim loop, making one shortcut not too far from the end, finishing up a little after 5:00. Great day, great weather, no other people seen all day.
11.8 mi • 2,296 ft aeg
BLAST FROM THE PAST! Did the hike about a month ago with Chris. This is one of my favorite hikes so when he mentioned that he wanted to hike it, I was all on board. Did the hike CCW. The northern portion of the trail was more overgrown than I anticipated which made me concerned about some of the less used portions. But surprisingly as we hiked into the interior the western sections were in about the same shape as what we had transversed. The climb to the top was uneventful. The most annoying aspect of that (and the entire hike for that matter) were the foxtails/cattails that kept embedding themselves in my sox and shoes. The views from the top were always. We didn't bother signing the register, because it was in such bad shape. On the return trip we took the southern leg of the Walking Jim Trail to complete the loop. Saw several burros(as usual),but the highlight of the hike the gila monster we saw chilling in the shade of a tree. Very cool! Thx for the invite Chris. Great Hike!

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